Before Alexander J. Funcheon was deployed to Iraq, he went to see his old third-grade teacher.
He posed for pictures in October with Linn Bertog, who now teaches fifth grade, and her elementary school students, who had "adopted" him before the school year.
Funcheon was a hero to her students and the class'' relationship with him helped connect them to world events. E-mailing Funcheon was a prized perk, given to those who helped out or performed well in class.
Now they must deal with his death.
"My heart just bleeds for the family," said Bertog.
Funcheon, 21, of Bel Aire, Kan., was killed April 29 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He got his GED in 2004 and was assigned to Fort Carson.
"He never got down, and he knew that he was doing a good job," said his mother, Karen. "He knew what was expected of him, and he was going to do it."
In Funcheon''s last e-mail to his parents, he wrote that he was preparing for an upcoming R&R to Germany. "He ended with, ''I''ll be home before you know it,''" said his mother.
He also is survived by his father, Bob.